It’s been almost 20 years since the residents around Shasta Park first met with city officials about the open space at the center of the neighborhood.
And on Thursday, one of the men who was instrumental in making sure that the park met the expectations of the residents and future generations – Art Rocha – was honored for his dedication to his neighbors and his friends as the newly installed playground was dedicated in his honor before a group of more than 50 family members, friends, and neighbors.
Just one hour into his retirement, former Parks and Recreation Director Steve Houx talked about how he vividly remembers those meetings – some of which were held at the home of Shasta Park resident and Manteca Unified school board trustee Vern Gebhardt – and how Rocha was a major force in how the park was eventually shaped.
“He was so passionate about the playgrounds – he came up with his designs in the meetings and played a big part,” Houx said. “He did so much in that process to make sure that the city do it right and that the city address all of the residents’ concerns.”
City Councilman Steve DeBrum offered kind words about Rocha as his family stood in the crowd amongst neighbors and longtime friends.
“The gentleman that we’re honoring tonight is no longer with us,” DeBrum said. “I applaud him for everything that he has done for the neighborhood and this city.
“His vision with this park makes it what it is today.”
The combination of private donations and grants helped fund the construction of the playground – anchored by a $100,000 grant that resident Keith Jackson secured to cover the cost of the rubber surface installed in place of sand.
According to George Montross of the Parks and Recreation Department, that portion of the park alone diverted 20,000 tires from a landfill.
Situated directly behind Shasta Elementary’s new multi-purpose gymnasium that is nearing completion, the playground adds another element that will serve the neighbors of the quaint area in honor of the person who would’ve wanted to have seen it more than anybody.
“Art Rocha helped make this park what it is today,” Gebhardt said when delivering words he didn’t plan on giving. “And Keith Jackson – you and your family deserve a standing ovation for what you did.
“I also want to thank the Parks and Recreation Department for all of their effort in this.”
Art Rocha’s family plans to celebrate the dedication of the new playground on Saturday, June 20, with a BBQ potluck starting at 1 p.m., at the playground. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org